Please help me make Christmas memories for my boys
December 5, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Children and Christmas in NYC - where are all the good windows? Where should we eat dinner? And what else should we check out?

Next Friday I'll be taking my 6 and 11 year old boys into NYC via train for some Christmas site-seeing. It's something my mom did and it was always a bright holiday memory. So I really want to pass it along to my two.

We're going to swing by the big tree in the morning and possibly try the ice skating. From there we want to check out the fancy Christmas windows. Which ones would you suggest visiting as being awesome/interesting/etc?

We're going to street cart it for lunch and then look for somewhere interesting for dinner. We need somewhere moderately priced, not overly kitschy, touristy, or crowded and with a patient waitstaff (6 yo is ADHD and autistic.) Not looking for something like MacDonalds. It's a sin to be in a place as awesome as NYC and then eat at a franchise fast food place. Any suggestions?

We're going to try walking past the tree light up for night time on the way back to the train station. Anywhere to get hot chocolate and decent coffee that isn't a Starbucks that you'd suggest?

Finally? Besides the tree and the windows, I'd love any other suggestion for things to check out that are kid-friendly.

Thanks ahead of time!
posted by FunkyHelix to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: [...lit up for night...]
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:12 PM on December 5, 2009

The Bergdorf Goodman windows are my favorite this year, but if I were a kid, I'd be wowed by the Lord & Taylor windows. I haven't seen the Saks windows in person, but here's a YouTube video.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:16 PM on December 5, 2009

Best answer: Christmas Windows Walking Tour Map
posted by HotPatatta at 8:18 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

They'd probably enjoy the Roosevelt Island Tramway. You can get on at E. 62nd St. and 2nd Ave., which is only a few blocks from FAO Schwartz (toys! giant piano!) and Bloomingdale's (more windows!). If you get a chance, take them to Books of Wonder. It's a fantastic children's bookstore that they'd adore. Get them a book they can keep forever to remember their magical Christmas in NYC. Buy freshly roasted chestnuts from a street vendor.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:34 PM on December 5, 2009

For your hot chocolate stop: the classic is Serendipity.
posted by fullofragerie at 8:36 PM on December 5, 2009

The Museum of Natural History puts up its own tree in the basement floor (you can step off a subway station straight into the museum -- that's the floor), and the tree is decorated with origami figures in the shapes of different animals and astronomical phenomena, in honor of the museums' different collections.

For food - a very kid-friendly place would be one of the "Two Boots" pizza franchises. It's a pizza place with Italian and Cajun influences -- they even make a special "pizza face" pizza for kids. Depending on where you end up, you could hit the one on the upper east Side (84th and 2nd) or the one in Hell's Kitchen (about 43rd and 9th). It's not overly-kitschy -- the decor is kind of kitschy, and the different flavor pizzas have silly names, but that's as far as the kitsch goes (no costumed singing waiters, at least).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 PM on December 5, 2009

Serendipity is great, but there's often a LONG wait, which might be a horror for little ones.

If you can afford it, the Rock Center Cafe is a little pricey, and a little fancy, but so amazingly awesome, delicious, and wonderful. If you make a reservation, be sure to ask for a window table. The restaurant windows (full length) open up onto the Rockefeller Center skating rink.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:39 PM on December 5, 2009

Also, Dylan's Candy Bar is excellent, and across the street from Bloomingdale's.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:41 PM on December 5, 2009

Dylan's Candy Bar is great, but be forewarned it may be an absolute madhouse. It was this afternoon (at least you're not doing this on a Saturday). Although the cafe was pretty empty. Ditto with someplace like FAO Schwarz, as there can be a line just to get into the place around the holidays. Same with World of Disney, which has a ton of holiday-related stuff and a display, as you can imagine.

Seconding the Saks display; it's great this year. And I love the lit snowflakes all on the Saks facade.

Not directly Christmas-related, but if you're in the area, Sony Wonder is pretty cool.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:56 PM on December 5, 2009

Instead of the restaurant idea, what about having a picnic on the deck of the Staten Island Ferry as you cruise by the Statue of Liberty? There's enough to entertain both your kids (especially if they've never done the boat thing before), it's free, and at the end, you get to come back and do it again!
posted by mdonley at 3:22 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I personally would've been very sad as a child to go to Manhattan and not see Santa (the real one, the Macy's one). Everything about it was magical, no matter how long it took, from the minute you started taking all those escalators (especially the wooden ones: so neat!). I liked FAO Schwarz always, too, but the lines might not be worth it these days.
posted by lysimache at 6:25 AM on December 6, 2009

Bergdorf Goodman has the Fantastic Mr Fox sets this year (or at least they did at Thanksgiving), very cool.
posted by arcticseal at 7:35 AM on December 6, 2009

Books is Wonder is lovely and has a branch of the Cupcake Cafe inside (with donuts, cupcakes, coffee, hot chocolate, etc.) but out of the way if they're mainly going to be around 5th between the 60s and 34th Street. So is the AMNH, as great as it is, and the two Two Boots locations that were mentioned.

For your street cart lunch, I would consult Midtown Lunch's map. For dinner, if you're going to be around Rockefeller Center, maybe La Bonne Soupe (55th St., between 5th & 6th Avs., family friendly, make reservations) or Angelo's Pizza (on 57th bet. 6th & 7th). Sarabeth's on Central Park South isn't too far from your itinerary either, but a little more expensive.

Which train are you coming in on -- does it come into Grand Central (which is gorgeous, has some holiday spirit, and would be a cool stop for kids) or Penn Station (which is ugly)? Given the holiday windows map that HotPattata linked to, it doesn't really make sense to double back to the tree at Rock Center if you're coming/leaving through Penn Station.

Staten Island Ferry idea would be a good one, in the summer. It's quite cold on the boat in the winter, and I'm not sure the staff would let you actually sit on the floor with a blanket. It's also quite a bit far away from midtown/Rock Center/5th Avenue windows.
posted by kathryn at 8:20 AM on December 6, 2009

One more thing: the best hot chocolate I can think of between 34th and 59th would be at La Maison du Chocolat. Unfortunately, they run out around 4 or 5pm each day. And I believe they close on the early side, so it's not ideal for a post-dinner trip.

In my experience, the best hot chocolate in town comes from good chocolatiers (many of whom won't be convenient to the 5th Avenue storefront windows), and they often run out and/or usually close around 5 or 6 each day.
posted by kathryn at 8:58 AM on December 6, 2009

Response by poster: We're coming in from Jersey, so that's a yes on Grand Central.

Thank you so much for all the suggestions thus far! Keep them coming. We're putting together our game plan Wednesday night.
posted by FunkyHelix at 4:09 PM on December 6, 2009

Response by poster: I'd just like to thank everyone who gave me some sort of answer. We took in the windows and the tree, ate of some carts around 30 Rock, and just had an awesome time.

I think the boys like Toys R Us the best because it had a ferris wheel, and ...hello! Three stories of toys. We were ready to leave there before they were. Also? Toys R Us gets much respect from me, because once they realized my youngest was autistic, they pulled the whole party out of line (4 adults and 2 kids) and put us immediately onto the ride. That's a real kindness that we don't see much in retail stores.

We ended up having dinner at a place near the tree on our second pass, the Channel 4 cafe. A bit pricey, but the staff and service were wonderful. They made sure my youngest didn't wait on his meal and didn't give us a hard time when he put his feet up in the booth and conked out while we had dessert and coffee. And the 11 year old found stuff on the menu he would eat without protest.

So thanks again for helping me give them this memory. It means so much to all of us.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2009

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